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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Meeting with Guadalupe Etla & Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla

Meeting with: Presidente Municipal, Guadalupe Etla

Antonio from UABJO picked us up in the huge University van (Erik was tied up in a meeting and could not attend) to drive us to our first meeting with C.P. Justino Matadmas Jimenez, the Presidente Municipal of Guadalupe Etla. Antonio guided the van as skillfully as a VW bug through the Oaxaca traffic to Guadalupe Etla, about 15 Km North West of Oaxaca City.
Arriving early for our 6pm meeting, we hung out in the plaza where the rides from the weekend’s fiesta were being dismantled. The officials of these smaller municipalities typically work some kind of day job and then do civic duties after hours.

When Justino arrived he instantly got down to business. Claire introduced us and Antonio to Justino and then it was like we were off to the races. We were excited to hear that Justino had received our letters, read them, and was ready to jump right in, discussing both problems and potential solutions. Claire started the discussion by filling Justino in on the conservation we had with Maria from Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla, and her primary concern of the black water (raw sewage) contamination. Then Antonio went into great detail about how a wetland treatment system could work in Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla, and how it would help resolve one of the major issues Guadalupe Etla currently suffers from. Antonio and Justino proceeded to talk for an hour and a half with Claire filling in the gaps; but for the most part, we let the discussion go where it needed to.

Justino was excited to hear about INSO and the work Juan Jose is doing to improve the social and environmental health of the greater Oaxaca Valley. Then, he joked to Antonio about “wow you folks at the University actually do something worthwhile.” Justino’s main concern centered around the potential maintenance costs of the wetland; Antonio tried his best to state that there is very little ongoing maintenance involved. It was also interesting to hear Justino bring up the idea of water filters as a way to generate funds to support the wetland maintenance. It seems like a major part of our job here right now is to introduce folks and get them talking.
Guadalupe Etla has many ongoing civic programs including a semi-annual trash cleanup, a recycling program, and a school environmental education program. This Municipality is quite different from Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla in that the entire town is supplied by a community water system. Almost everyone has flush toilets with individual septic systems. At one time there was a community drinking-water well, which has since become contaminated with iron and manganese. Like Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla, Guadalupe Etla uses 5-gallon water jugs for potable water, delivered a few times a week.

We left the meeting after several hours with Justino fully onboard and ready to join our efforts to move forward with potential wetland project. Juan Jose of INSO told us early on that we must be very slow, and talk around ideas and plans with the community members. However, we have found everyone has wanted to jump right in and seems ready to go on to the next stage.
Antonio guided the huge van back to the Centro (the city center) and drove around while pointing out many unique sites and telling us a history of Oaxaca. We were all amazed at his ability to guide the van through the small streets that are jammed with cars, busses, and trucks. He recommended a great restaurant for us to have a late dinner at. We took him up on his recommendation and he was right. It was great.

Meeting with: Agente Municipal, Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla

Our second meeting with Maria Soledad Diaz Gonzalez with Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla (21 July) started by having a misunderstanding on the meeting time, and when we arrived with Erik and Antonio, Maria thought the meeting was set for 3 pm and we showed up at 5 pm. Without Maria we showed Erik and Antonio the black water issue, the old dump and the potential wetland site. They were excited to see the topography as it is nearly flat with a slight slope (read good drainage and water flow). We arranged with Maria to meet her the day after we met with Justino.

The meeting with Erik and Maria was much like the meeting with Justino in that Erik and Maria talked for almost 2 hours straight and we only got a few words in edgewise. After the meeting Maria took us to a corn field that is using the output from the composting lue’s that INSO is helping build. The corn was over our heads while the section next to it was only a few feet tall! We then went to look at another challenging site where the main river comes in from across the main highway to Mexico City. There is a small catch basin with a spillway. The catch basin was totally polluted with black water and trash. This is definitely a potential future project.

Looking forward:
This coming week we have three important meetings on our plate. First, is with a local Rotary club on Tuesday night (9pm). Wednesday Maria and Justino will be coming to the university to see their wetland project and learn firsthand about it. Then, on Friday we have a very important meeting with INSO’s sanitation working group. This meeting will include state, and local government officials, INSO’s technical sanitation team, the University, Maria and Justino. Our hope for this meeting is again get these folks talking and on the same page, and if we are lucky come away with a potential scope for a project.

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